This first humor, adventure book in the "Penderwicks" series by Jeanne Birdsall is published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children's Books.
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Penderwick sisters Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty arrive at their summer rental cottage with their dad and discover it's on the grounds of a lush estate called Arundel. Although they quickly learn to avoid Arundel's owner — an arrogant heiress and single mother named Mrs. Tifton — they meet other kind employees of the estate, and even befriend Mrs. Tifton's son, Jeffery. The children enjoy ballgames and other adventures, all the while trying to stay out of Mrs. Tifton's way. When Mrs. Tifton reaches her wit's end with the kids, she and her obnoxious boyfriend, Dexter, decide to send Jeffery to military school. As the girls prepare to leave for home, they wage one final campaign to save Jeffery from this unwelcome fate.
Mr. Penderwick is a kind, involved father who encourages his girls in their individual activities and listens to their concerns, however silly they may seem. When Jeffery runs away and hides in the Penderwicks' cottage, Mr. Penderwick tries to facilitate conversation between Jeffery and his mother without belittling her authority. (However, one does ponder the whereabouts of Mr. Penderwick when little Batty nearly gets gored by a bull, wanders into the forest or roams the estate alone.) Mrs. Tifton and Dexter demonstrate consistently selfish and authoritarian parenting (although Mrs. Tifton softens a little in the end). Their haughty, nasty comments about the Penderwicks and their plot to send Jeffery away so they can get married make them poor — if not somewhat implausible — authority figures.
Other Belief Systems
Characters use darn and heck a time or two.
Cagney, the gardener, kisses his girlfriend once, and no detail is provided. A few innocent "goodbye" kisses occur when the Penderwicks leave the cottage for their home.
National Book Award Winner for Young People's Literature, The New York Times Best Seller List, Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- On several occasions, Batty is endangered because her sisters aren't watching her.
Why is it important to keep an eye on your younger brothers or sisters when you're put in charge of them?
- What did you dislike about Mrs. Tifton and Dexter, and how can we make sure we don't treat others the way they did?
- It was sad that Jeffery didn't feel he could talk to his mom about what he wanted.
Do you feel as though you can talk to me/us?
- If not, what can we do to make that better?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.